Mentally Disordered Suspects

The mentally disordered only come into contact with the police when their unusual behaviour is noticed by the public and with that call the police for help. Automatically the mentally disordered are labelled as bad or criminals instead of mad people who do need help. If someone who is suffering from a mental disorder gets into a dispute or is causing public disorder the police are called to the scene and it is there they have to look at the person and ‘diagnose’ if the suspect has a mental disorder. The police have to decide if the person is going to be a threat to themselves or to the public if so they will enforce section 136 from the P.

A. C. E act 1984(if they want to enforce section 136 the police are required to give a low level diagnosis. ) It’s up to the police to make a decision right on the street to act. As you can see the mentally disordered are very misunderstood. Recently in the last couple of years, police are being trained more to deal and help those with mental disorders. Before this new sort of training was included in ordinary police training, police were never taught how to communicate with not only the community but those who were not like ‘normal’ people.

Police were taught about section 136 but not in great detail. Now police are taught section 136 in great detail, without section 136 patients would be charged and dealt with by the criminal justice system instead of being detained in the mental health system. Things have changed. In police training the first thing they are trained to do is to initially identify suspects to have a mental disorder, also they are taught to distinguish those with learning difficulties and those with mental disorders. Firstly, police are taught the definition of mental disorder.

According to the P. A. C. E act, mental disorder is arrested or incomplete development of the mind; psychopathic or disability of the mind. Once they are taught the definition they then are taught what specific words in that definition means, arrested refers to trauma suffered by the mind and this can be a result from an ongoing medical condition, incomplete development refers to the mind not being complete from birth; the mind having not developed completely from the foetal stage. Psychopathic refers to a person who has very tunnel vision.

They become very focused on a particular thing or person and get become extremely violent to get what they want. Disability of the mind can refer to people suffering from some form of mental ‘handicap’. This includes downs syndrome/autism or other forms of communication problems or memory difficulties. Once they know what mental disorder means they are taught what symptoms or signs to look for in order to diagnose a mental condition once on a scene of a crime. Police are taught that even though they have to look for these signs on the street, they are not doctors.

They should look for hyperactivity, hallucinations, hearing voices, panic, irrational fear, wild look, wide eyes and rapid speech, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, sweating, clenched fists and frowning are many symptoms that police need to look for when dealing with someone who has a suspected mental disorder. They are taught to look at what causes aggression in someone that has a mental disorder. Aggression is caused by fear and this is caused by being frightened by noise (their only way out is to fight) or fright from memory of previous occasions when aggression occurred.

Confusion and disorientation are very frightening in itself and this can cause aggression. Paranoia is another cause because people feel they are being persecuted by society, an individual, or group e. g. the police. Anger is provoked by others or the situation they might be in. In schizophrenics, voices may tell the person to harm themselves or others but what police might see is tension or confusion from the sufferer. Once police are taught about all sorts of mental disorders and how aggression comes about they are then taught some ‘top tips’ of how to deal with those they think to have a mental disorder.

These are those top tips: Do not approach from behind (this may frighten the person therefore this could result in aggression), Do not touch the person (you don’t want to make the person feel uncomfortable), allow them and you some space (keep your distance), establish and maintain communication, remove your hat/helmet if safe to do so (this will lessen your height and make you less threatening), make an assessment but try not to stare, be alert and remain cautious, do not ridicule (this, again, can result in aggression), if you need to call for assistance do not use your radio in front of the person (this can cause fear and result in aggression), make sure your voice is calm but not whispering especially to other police officers and try talking to one person at a time, clear any spectators who are watching or remove that person from the crowded environment, don’t use blue lights or two tones, ask the person what is wrong (don’t jump to conclusions) and remember you are not a doctor and not responsible for diagnosing their problem. This is what is taught to those who are recruited by the Thames Valley Police.

As you can see, training which deals with suspects with mental disorders is more improved and friendlier; this is to make the person feel more comfortable. Even with all this training is it really the responsibility of the police to care or provide care to those with mental disorders? Some police officers said that even though they go to all measures to help those with mental disorders after being charged they are released back into the community and if that person gets into trouble again they have to waste time dealing with them and not more serious offences. Some police officers are sometimes apprehensive about dealing with those who have a mental disorder.

They are not fully trained in managing a mentally disordered person but people like social workers are trained so shouldn’t it be their responsibility to deal with those who are mentally disordered. You could say this problem has arisen due to the closure of asylums for the care in the community project, patients are not being observed by those in the medical profession so really they are free to walk around in public like a ‘normal’ person. There are lack of resources and facilities, for example, there are not enough social workers to deal with those with mental disorders. Many believe that it really shouldn’t have to be the responsibility of the police to deal with this issue.

The police service is the only service that operates 24 hours a day 365 days a year who take on mentally disordered people, some who might be violent. No other organisation, for example social services, would be willing to provide such a service and until another organisation is willing to take on this job, the police will have to continue playing this role. You could say that the police are key figures in the mental health services. In conclusion, training has improved dramatically but training has to be kept up and this can only happen is communication improved between multi-agencies like social services, psychiatric hospitals and general practitioners and voluntary groups like Samaritans who can help the police in dealing with those with mental disorders.